Project could be a turning point for southwest Everett

EVERETT — For decades the sand and gravel culled from an industrial site off Glenwood Avenue has helped build Northwest homes, roads and even the Space Needle.

The owners of the operation, Cemex USA, now envision a different future for the land: shops, offices and hundreds of homes.

They’re asking the city to change its policy and plans so more than 70 acres of industrial land can be developed.

If city leaders say yes, the change has the potential to reshape the character of southwest Everett. Such a large chunk of land provides the city a rare opportunity for a planned community.

It also could mean a loss of scarce industrial land and the jobs that come with it — something past Everett leaders have taken measures to protect. The city, too, is weighing what the project might mean for traffic, schools and taxes.

The public can comment on the project until Oct. 26. If Everett’s planning commission approves the request, the City Council could make a decision by the turn of the year.

The Cemex proposal calls for a mix of 1,045 closely-spaced single-family homes, apartments and town homes separated by areas of common green space. The tip of the wedge-shaped development at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Sievers-Duecy Boulevard would include shops, restaurants and some housing.

Another 30 acres on the Northwest edge, which abuts the Seaway Center industrial and business park, would be devoted to light industry. The planned development also would include 14 acres of public plazas, green space and pathways.

Industrial land is so scarce and so important to the creation of jobs, city leaders 15 years ago made preserving it a priority, said Allan Giffen, Everett’s director of planning and community development. The land the Cemex plant sits on is part of the largest industrial and manufacturing center area in Snohomish County. In the same area, businesses such as Campbell’s StockPot Soups and JanSport provide jobs for thousands of workers. The city has targeted this area as the future for even more intensive business development. The city would have to rewrite its own policy to accept the project, he said.

The previous owner of the plant, Rinker, already donated land near the proposed development that is used as a baseball field, plus additional open space. In total, the city received an additional 100 acres of land for parks. Most of that land is unsuitable for industrial or residential development.

The city has looked closely at how the proposed development might affect the area.

The city’s studies show it would bring more cars to the area, but traffic in the peak evening hours and during the day would actually be less than if the area were built out with industrial businesses.

When it comes to schools, all those homes would add nearly 400 more students to area schools.

The city has to consider as well, the impact of adding that many homes in an area affected by nearby Paine Field. The Cemex land falls in the city’s “airport influence” area. Boeing asked Cemex for an aviation easement that would ensure home buyers understand they are buying a home near an airport.

When it comes to how much tax revenue the project might bring in compared with an industrial business, those effects are harder to measure, Dave Koenig, a city manager familiar with the project said.

Retail businesses tend to bring in more revenue to the city per square foot than warehouses and this project retains space for smaller commercial businesses. All those homes would require more city services. It’s hard to pencil out how the project would effect Everett’s bottom line, he said.

What neighbors don’t want to see is heavy industry in the space, said Derrick Davis, whose home overlooks the Cemex plant. He’d prefer to see more high-tech industry, places where people can make a good living. The area already has enough “industrial buildings, jet planes and diesel trucks.”

He supports the project with some reservations: He’s concerned the high-density housing in the project might create “transient neighbors.” He wants a project that creates a neighborhood where people want to set down roots.

Davis doesn’t want the project to become the next Casino Road, he said.

“My biggest hope is they keep it classy,” he said.

Debra Smith: 425-339-3197, dsmith@heraldnet.com

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